It's truly amazing how unclean eating affects not just my body but also my mind and emotions, particularly after an extended period of clean eating. This is all new for me. Counting calories or points or fat grams, as I have in the past, meant I could eat anything as long as it fit within the daily calorie or point or fat-gram parameters.
"Anything" included sugar-free or low-fat substitutes for real foods which had too many calories per serving to be satisfying. Think frozen desserts, processed meats, Snackwell cookies and anything that comes in a 100-calorie pack.
To be sure, I'm still counting. My current parameters are calories and carbohydrate grams. But the foods I'm choosing are as simple as they can be, and generally require a bit more prep work than opening a package.
Sometimes I have to wash a piece of fruit. Heh.
I've been thinking about this past weekend's food, especially the s'mores. They weren't that great to eat, but they were fun to make. I was a little disappointed they didn't taste better. After all, these were treats! They should be fun to make and to eat!
And then I thought:
Food doesn't have to be fun.
And probably – for me – shouldn't be.
I have a neighbor who has said life would be so much easier if humans, like dogs, could get along on two scoops of kibble daily. Hershey doesn't turn her little nose up when faced with the same dry dog food day after day, meal after meal. She eats it and goes on with her day. She naps a lot (she's 10, after all), and she chases deer out of the yard and she loves finding a mouse or mole in the neighbor's hayfield. She'll spend a good half an hour jumping around like a kitten trying to catch one.
But I'll bet she doesn't spend a single extra doggie minute thinking, "Kibble. Again. Blech."
Many of the processed, packaged, fake foods are designed to replace real and former once-in-a-while foods. Treats have evolved – or devolved, probably – from a special-occasion indulgence to part of a daily diet. What I've learned after just four months of eating the basics – meat, vegetables and fruit – is embarrassingly elementary.
Food is fuel.
My body performs better on the basics. My metabolism works the way it's supposed to work. Apparently I'm able to turn real-food calories into energy for a daily walk or jog, but can only turn crap-food calories into fat. Eating real, unprocessed food has transformed me from someone who wished for more get-up-and-go into someone who is getting up and going.
Cooking tasty meals, tweaking recipes, baking – all have "consumed" a good part of my life. Even a good part of my identity. Food preparation was not just a matter of putting dinner on the table. It was a hobby. I've owned hundreds of cookbooks and saved binders full of clipped-from-magazine recipes.
And, honestly, if I ever want a recipe for something not-so-basic, the internets are full of them.
I still want my food to taste good. But I don't spend a lot of time jazzing it up. I still enjoy an occasional treat – homemade Larabars, muffins made with almond or coconut flour. But they fit within the new parameters, and they're not part of my every-day menu.
Finally, on nearly every "diet" I've ever tried, I've learned to always be thinking about the next eating opportunity, be it snack time or one of the three squares. To my utter and complete astonishment, my day is not now focused on food. Which sets me apart, I suppose, from Grok, who spent his waking hours warding off predators and finding sustenance.
I eat when I'm hungry. Duh. I rarely ever felt hunger eating processed foods, sugar, white flour, artificial sweeteners. Hunger is not such a bad thing. I no longer carry snacks with me. I'll get some food, eventually. I'm not going to DIE if my stomach growls.
That's it, really. My new food manifesto. Nothing you haven't heard or read elsewhere, probably. New for me, though.
And – so far – it seems to be working.